London Mayor pledges robust policing for J&K protest

Last Updated 26 October 2019, 04:21 IST

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said he is working with Scotland Yard to ensure that a "robust" policing plan is in place to prevent any security threats around the Indian High Commission in London during a planned "Free Kashmir" protest on Diwali.

The Pakistani-origin mayor made his promise in an update letter to London Assembly member Navin Shah, who had previously raised concerns over the planned protests by British Pakistani and separatist groups for Diwali on Sunday.

He confirmed that following his representations with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the force had applied strict conditions on march, which has been denied permission to assemble outside the Indian High Commission building in Aldwych, central London.

"The Metropolitan Police have informed me that whilst this prevents assembly and protest outside the Indian High Commission, it is possible that the protest, or parts of it, could seek to breach the conditions imposed and make their way to protest outside the High Commission," he notes in his letter.

"The police have reassured me that a robust policing plan will be in place to ensure the security of the High Commission of India, and also to take quick steps to minimise any disruption caused," he said.

There have been widespread concerns of a repeat of the violent clashes witnessed outside India House in London during a protest by the same groups on August 15, India's Independence Day.

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons that any kind of violence during such demonstrations was "wholly unacceptable" after the issue was raised in Parliament by Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman.

Johnson said that UK home secretary Priti Patel would be discussing the matter with the Met Police, which issued a statement late on Thursday to confirm restrictions on the flow of the march.

"We understand that this is a significant anniversary date for those protesting, and also recognise this falls on the important Hindu festival of Diwali. My intention on the day will be to balance the rights of those protesting with those who may be affected by it. We will take all necessary steps to prevent crime and disorder," said Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, the Gold Commander in charge of the policing operation.

The pre-event conditions on the "Free Kashmir protest" have been imposed under Sections 12 and 14 of the UK Public Order Act, which refer to preventing serious disruption to the community, and warned that failure to adhere to the conditions could lead to arrest and prosecution.

The groups named among the organisers of Sunday's protest include Muslim Action Forum, World Muslim Federation, Pakistan Patriotic Front, Overseas Pakistan Welfare Council, Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party and PTI AJK.

The Met Police said it was liaising closely with the organisers and the High Commission of India to prepare for the policing operation.

"The Met will take all necessary steps to ensure the security and integrity of the High Commission of India and the safety of those who work there or visit on the day," the Met Police statement added.

Some protest organisers threatened to go to the court and claimed they had issued a legal letter ahead of seeking a judicial review of the Met Police's restrictions.

"We are not aware of such a letter having been received so far," a Met Police spokesperson said.

According to the permitted route for Sunday's protest, the march must start at Parliament Street, process along Whitehall and conclude in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London, without any assembly around India House in Aldwych. PTI AK MRJ AKJ MRJ

(Published 26 October 2019, 02:50 IST)

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